I recently had a conversation with some organisational development professionals (which included a good friend of mine, Amanda Brown from Cloud 10 Coaching) around the subject of ‘development’. We weren’t even in the pub but we talked at length about “what is development”?
The good news is I didn’t need to have had a couple of beers. Development and in particular, the development of people and organisations is something which is close to my heart.
The bad news is there were no simple answers to the question we tried to answer! We all agreed that development is multi faceted, is something which can be risky (for the individual) and is a life-long commitment. We felt that development was about finding peoples intrinsic likes and desires and then supporting them to develop in those areas. Development we determined is a difficult process and one which takes a level of risk on the part of the individual. Certainly in my own life, the things I have found most difficult are the things which have developed me the most. Put another way, this process is often referred to as ‘being out of your comfort zone’. I have often observed that people who don’t take themselves out of their comfort zone are less likely to develop.
In the same conversation we also spoke about education and the importance of finding out what children are good at. As a group we broadly agreed that it was important to discover what people could do well – after all, every human being is good at something. We were quite critical of the education sector, which we felt is often preoccupied with the achievement of grades. Of course, education and state education in particular has to walk a tight rope which is about marrying broader development with perceived economic supply and demand and the needs of voters and the media.
I think this debate was in part illustrated by the recent media spot light on the Work Programme which manifested itself in the news around geologist graduate, Cait Reilly. Without getting into the rights and wrongs of welfare or the Work Programme, from my angle, I felt this hinted at a wider debate around ‘development’ and ‘skills’. There seemed to be a discussion in the media around should people do want they want to do or should they find a job where the market has demand? It’s an interesting discussion and one where I’d suggest the answer is somewhere in the middle i.e. aim to find something where there is demand but also something you like or are suited to. I certainly advocate this during my career coaching sessions.
At one extreme, I do believe that people who do a job purely because it offers economic security will never be the best at it and the chances are their lives, won’t be as fulfilled as someone who does something because they are passionate about it. However we all need to make a living too so it’s important to find something which is in demand. If you look at successful entrepreneurs, I can’t think of a single one who set out to do what they did because of money alone but clearly finding market demand is an important part of their success.
So how does all of this affect a company who wants to develop their staff to be more productive employees? I always remember when I did a CIPD course on 'the training cycle', I heard a great phrase which summed up company development perfectly... “can’t cook/won’t cook”. This means that you can’t develop or train someone who isn’t interested. Development has to be intrinsic but employers can definitely facilitate that process. In my mind, this process has to start at recruitment where by employers spend time to find the right people who want to work for them because they really want to. Time spent at this stage is time well spent. If someone is intrinsically interested in doing something they will learn how to do it well.
I will be continuing with my skills and development theme so stay posted for the next instalment...
Happy to hear your thoughts!